By Frank Tobe, Editor and Publisher, The Robot Report
For many years now Willow Garage has invested in open source and open platform robotics. Their goal has been a reflection of the vision of it’s founder (and chief funder) to advance the state of robotic technology in autonomous devices.
And advance the state of robotics it certainly did!
- ROS (Robot Operating System) and ROS-enabled software packages and libraries can be found in most universities and research labs.
- The 50 PR2 research robots and development platforms around the world and at Willow Garage’s offices in Menlo Park have enabled countless roboticists and research labs to spend their time innovating instead of having to re-invent.
- The spin-offs abound as well: TurtleBot, OpenCV, Galapagos, ROS and ROS-Industrial, Suitable Technologies’ Beam Remote Presence System, HiDOF consulting, the detection and perception leading to the establishment of Industrial Perception, are all indicators of WG’s policy of spinning out entities with a sustaining business plan.
- And the joint ventures: Redwood Robotics, a promising competitor in the collaborative cage-free robot field.
Today WG announced that they are changing direction and deciding to focus on additional commercial opportunities with an eye to becoming self-supporting. The generous funding from Scott Hassan will stop within three months, and WG employees have been notified. Late last year the writing was on the wall when Scott Hassan announced that he was to be the CEO at WG spin-off Suitable Technologies.
The PR2s around the world will continue to be supported and the recent establishment of non-profit organizations will continue the open source platform and libraries.
What can we expect from Willow Garage in the future? One can only imagine. Personally, after seeing Industrial Perception’s robot unload the back of a truck, understanding the complexity of what appeared to be a seamless process made simple by IPI, I foresee other products along the line of “see”, “sense”, “process”, and “act” done using ROS, tested on PR2s and rolled out commercially with the new credo of “fast and seamless”.
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